This article comes as a second in the series “Marriage and Vision”. The previous article “The crucial place of a common-vision in sustaining a fulfilling marriage” was written to establish firmly the importance of married couples having a common-vision as a foundation for their marriage. However, vision like every other thing that has value has to be preserved and maintained. There are great business partnerships that started off well with clearly defined objectives . . . good enough, but did not stand the test of time because beyond the definition of objectives, nothing was done to preserve and reinforce the initial vision that was agreed upon. Vision is like a divine seed; it has to be nurtured, protected and preserved until it yields fruits in the life of the person that bears it. The same principle governs the preservation of a common-vision in marriage.
PARABLE OF THE SOWER: LESSONS ON PRESERVATION OF VISION “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:18-24, NIV “The sower soweth the word.” Mark 4:14, KJV A common-vision in the heart of a couple can be likened unto a seed – a word God has spoken, a picture the Spirit of God cast in the heart of a couple – the foundation of their marriage. From this insightful parable we can learn and apply two profound principles 1. God’s Plans and Purposes for Life Begins as Vision-Seeds: Realize what the farmer actually seeks is a harvest BUT he plants seeds as a means of obtaining a future harvest. There are certain plans and purposes God desires to actualize in the lives and marriages of His children. However, He begins by sowing a vision-seed into the heart of His children as to what he wants to make of their lives. I have this deep conviction that the Lord wants to birth great things (beyond having children) through our marital union. However, He begins by sowing a vision-seed. This vision-seed could come as an impression on our heart, a burden, a heart cry, a deep spiritual desire, a divine passion, a prophetic word etc. regarding our marital future. As small as these sounds, this is how God starts the sowing of His vision-seeds for something really great in a person or couple’s future. “Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32, NIV Please note “It is like a mustard seed . . . yet when planted; it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants” Vision Nuggets i. When a person kills the seed of vision, such a person is killing God’s plan and purpose for his or her life. ii. A person who sincerely desires his or her life to be an epitome of divine exploits must learn to discern, recognize, value and preserve the minute seeds of vision God sows in his or her heart. As we look into the issue of preserving a common-vision in marriage, the question we should ask ourselves is How do we ensure that the vision-seed God has begun to drop in our hearts grows into a big tree – big enough to provide shelter for our generation? How do we ensure that God’s divine-vision for our marriage is not truncated, aborted and eliminated by the pressures of life, sin and devil? The future of a marriage is not in the material possession, career success, fame, ministry success (not even in the children), BUT in the ability of the couple to treasure, preserve and grow the vision-seed that formed the foundation of the marriage into a big and unshakeable tree of stability in the marriage – a stability that nothing can move. The answer to this question brings us to the second principle from the parable of the sower. 2. The Lifespan and Fruitfulness of a Vision (even from God) is Determined by The State of The Heart: Simply because a vision comes from God does not mean it will automatically succeed. The heart of the recipient of the vision is paramount in determining what becomes of the vision. The following key attributes must describe a heart that will preserve a vision-seed unto it season of fruitfulness. NOTE: For every vision-seed, there is a season appointed of God for manifestation (Habakkuk 2:2-3). i. Understanding: “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” Matthew 13:19, NIV It is impossible to retain in our heart a vision we do not understand. The questions to ponder on as regards our common-vision in marriage are: Can I say confidently within three (3) sentences what God wants to achieve in and through our marriage? What is the purpose for which I got married to my husband (wife)? Why at this time and how come I will be living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada? What is the divine plan for all these? “I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23, NIV “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10, NIV “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21, NIV ii. Preparation for challenges: Even when understanding has been established, it is crucial to go a step further to ensure that we prepare our heart for challenges. Challenges, if not properly prepared for can destroy a person’s faith and alter the course of a person’s life and marriage. So many people who say they have faith are just merely optimistic. However, when challenges show up then we are able to differentiate between optimism (positive thinking) and real faith (founded on a promise from God). Please note, optimism is a good point to start from but not to end. One of the Zurich axioms provides a profound insight: “Optimism means expecting the best, but confidence means knowing how to handle the worst. Never make a move if you are merely optimistic.” Gaining perspective from the Bible, our marriage is destined for the best of blessings but one thing is certain “There is always a valley of shadow of death to pass through”. (Note: pass through NOT remain there). It is difficult to tell a complete story of greatness without telling of an episode of challenges. iii. Purity of Heart: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22, NIV “As selfishness and complaints pervert the mind, so love with joy clears and sharpens vision” Helen Keller A heart that will successfully carry a vision-seed through to the point of birth must be pure and free from the worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth. God’s word in a person’s life is rendered fruitless, ineffective and useless if such a heart is pre-occupied with weeds. A divine vision-seed for a marriage can never germinate into anything reasonable if the couple have allowed weeds to occupy their heart. There must be a conscious effort to root out any and every weed, the moment they surface. One thing is certain, weeds will always attempt to grow – one distraction here, the other temptation there but if we are to bear our common-vision for marriage unto fruitfulness, then we MUST NOT give those weeds space and nutrients for growth. For Demas, the weed of worldliness aborted the divine vision-seed of raising disciples for Jesus. “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” 2 Timothy 4:10, NIV For Gehazi, the weed of deceitful riches aborted the divine vision-seed of his prophetic ministry. For some, the weed of untamed thoughts of lust for extra-marital pleasures aborted their common-vision in marriage and exposed their foolishness. It is good to round this up with the words of Jesus in Luke 21:34 “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware” Luke 21:34, NLT PRINCIPLES FOR PRESERVING A DIVINE VISION “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2, NLT Please read again the text of the scripture above. Note that the actual message or instruction Paul is trying to pass across is “Agree wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” He is telling them to be united and work together with a common-vision BUT he does something profound! What? He first lays down the conditions for unity and working with a common-vision. He names the following: Encouragement from belonging to Christ Comfort from God’s love Tender and Compassionate hearts Fellowship together in the Spirit I will elaborate on the last point on the list as one of the principles of preserving a divine vision. 1. Joint Fellowship With The Spirit Sustaining a divine vision goes beyond the couple involved being believers. It goes a step further to having a joint fellowship with the Spirit. If one believer is carnal and the other is spiritual, even with a common foundation in Jesus, there will still have disagreements here and there. To close up this unwanted gap and avoid this unhelpful disagreement, Paul emphasizes that the believers should fellowship together in the Spirit. As a couple, we need to have a shared encounter with the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. We need to pray together; share the same burden in prayer. We need to share the same passion for the things of God. No one is to be left lagging behind. Jesus and Peter ought to be partnering. However, they had different depths of spiritual understanding. Concerning His death, Jesus had a divine agenda that Peter, though a partner yet speaking in the flesh, opposed. Jesus eventually had to challenge and correct that opposing opinion. This is an example of conflict of opinion when two partners are of different levels of spiritual understanding. The family altar of prayer, regularly scheduled retreats and similarity in aspects of our study curriculum (Bible and books) are habits that will ensure we are having a joint fellowship in the Spirit. Once again, you see Jesus trying to achieve this joint fellowship with His disciples. He prayed with the three key disciples (Peter, James and John) on the mountain of transfiguration and again in the garden of Gethsemane. All of this, to ensure they keep seeing what He was seeing. 2. Setting Aside Self “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:3-4, NIV “Great achievements is usually born of great sacrifice and is never the result of selfishness” Napoleon Hill “If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light – take off all your envies, jealousies, forgiveness, selfishness and fears” Casare Pavese An instruction to work together with one mind and purpose is incomplete without a corresponding instruction to set aside self. Selfishness sets into a marriage when one party is more concerned about him or herself than the family. When people who ought to be supporting each other begin to compete with each other to project self and impress people (even their children), then selfishness has cripped in. One truth that will help dissolve selfishness is that as long as you are married, you cannot separate your public image from the public image of your spouse so it does not pay to project self at the expense of the other party. This truth will always make an individual think of how to help a spouse outgrow a weakness and shortcoming. Seeing oneself as so important is one thing to watch out for in marriage. The training of our minds to see and focused on the strength of each other, consistent appreciation and commitment towards helping each other out of any shortcoming is crucial to protecting your minds from the lie “I am better than this my spouse! I can do it better! I can play this role more excellently!”. The focus is not to outplay the other but to win as a team. 3. A Humble Realization That The Common-Vision Can only Be Achieved by Interdependence Not Independence “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” Ecclesiastes 4:9, NIV “In the progress of personality, first comes a declaration of independence, then a recognition of interdependence” Henry Van Dyke Some results are achievable with independence. However, true greatness cannot be achieved without interdependence and synergy. It is this interdependence that God instituted marriage for. For us to tap into this blessing of independence in marriage, it is essential that we both realize that the magnitude of what God wants to achieve through this union is not something that any one of us can achieve alone, without the consistent help and support of the other. We need to hold this truth in our heart and be conscious of it every day so that it may keep our hearts from the lies of the enemy. 4. Drink From The Same Spiritual Source I find it painful when I see a couple divided along doctrinal basis. Wife goes to one Church and husband to another. It is not an ideal home and reflects division. Every Church denomination is unique by the reason of the specific vision God has given them to fulfill. Generally speaking, as believers we should support and help out God’s work irrespective of denomination even as He leads us. However, when it comes to in-depth commitment to a specific vision, it is essential that husband and wife are in the same denomination actualizing the corporate vision for that denomination. It is very crucial to unity in a home. I term this drinking from the same spiritual source i.e. following the same cloud of divine direction and prophetic instruction. God is not an author of confusion, so even with respect to ministry- specific vision, there should be unity and oneness 5. Share Common Values “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil” C.S Lewis Values are important and enduring beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture, organization, society etc. about what is good or desirable and what is not. Values exert a major influence on the behavior of an individual and serve as broad guidelines in all situations particularly those that test our characters. Values are underlying belief system from which our character flows. It is crucial for us as a couple to ensure we share the same values; values that have their roots in the Word of God. Key values for our home includes (Please take note): i. Integrity before God and before man (Acts 23:1) ii. Gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18) iii. Excellence (Daniel 6:3-6) iv. Humility (Philippians 2:5-9) v. Service (Luke 22:25-27) All we do (character and behavior) should stem from these values. As we hold onto virtue, God will honour us and fulfill his purpose in our lives. AMEN!